If you have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing any one of the multitude of Lego-based gaming titles that are on the shelves of your local games retailer then we can confidently say that as a starting point for entry into the Lego Universe, then you could do a lot worse than opting for Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 . Here’s why:
Truth be told, we here at GamesMediaPro Towers have been ardent fan’s of the Lego franchise ever since we first encountered the brightly coloured lands and level’s of the Lego Star Wars titles, and we haven’t looked back since. Far from it. If anything we have only ever looked forward to the next title in the series of highly enjoyable games, with all the wide eyed wonder of a child waiting in line to see their first Santa Claus in his department store grotto.
So in turn, we have kept up with all the goings on in the Lego World, battling giant grey bricked At-At’s on Hoth, and defeating countless hidden traps and natural foes in Lego Indiana Jones to dealing out punisment with the ‘Bat-a-rang’ in the hugely enjoyable Lego Batman, and they have all led us to this point in time when we don the school uniform and ‘Invisiblilty Cloak’ of the young ‘Wand-Botherer’ himself, a certain Master Potter. The day that we get to pull on oor dodgy black spec’s and raise our wand to the Lego built obstacle blocking our path and with a flourish cry, “Wingardium Leviosa”. Was it worth the wait and the anticipation after all this time and hype? Well why not join us, as we take you on a journey through the wonderful world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy?
So let’s begin with the overview as we get to grips with what we are going to be playing, and how we are going to be playing it for the what will be the foreseeable future, if you wish to attempt to master this title and all its content that is? That brings us to our first word of warning to those Trophy Hunter’s and Cheevo Scalper’s out there, and that is if you expecting Lego Harry Potter to add a quick ‘Platinum’ or ‘1000’ to you respective gamerscores, then think again. As unlike previous titles in the franchise, LHP sees you getting quite a lot more content for your gaming pound, and let’s face it, in this current economic climate any games studio and developer that then decides to increase the amount of hard work and actual quantity of gameplay that is included in their titles deserves a considerably larger amount of respect than they are getting from gaming public that is getting more and more demading with every title that is released. For that reason alone we have to take our collective hats off to the guys and girls over there at Travellers Tales development team.
Lego Harry Potter does everything that the previous titles did, only bigger and better! The game is spread over all four of the movies and books and so what you get from the title is actually the largest undertaking that Lego or Travellers Tales have accomplished to date. Credit is also due to the developers for the seemless transition of the movies and books more memorable scenes and activities over to the digital version in the gaming realm. Everything from spell casting, potion making, the invisibility cloaks and even Qidditch make their welcome appearances in LHP, and of course what would Hogwarts be without the awesome sight of the underground lair that lies beneath the Girl’s Bathroom?
All of your favourite characters from the books and movies are also on offer for you, and at the last count we worked it out to be a total inclusion of around 167 different people and members of the Harry Potter cast that can be found in the hallowed Halls of Hogwarts and the surrounding magical realm.
Locations stretching out before you include the legendary Hogwarts school itself, but also to be explored are the wonderfully detailed and enchanting Daigon Alley. You may also venture into the dark and foreboding Enchanted Forest where wonders await you, and so do hidden dangers, as you press forward in your quest to ultimately face the arch nemisis of the young ‘wand botherer’ Potter, the ‘baddie’ of the scene, and the murderer of young Harry’s parents, the evil Voldemort. All of the areas that you will venture to as you don the guise of Harry, or one of the many other playable characters in the game, are just so beautifully crafted and detailed in their appearance that sometimes you forget that you are meant to be looking at the world through ‘Lego Eyes.’ Such are the excellent renders and breathtaking scenery in every level and chapter in the game, that no doubt many players will be returning time and again to revisit the locations on their way to chasing that fabled 100% completion that Lego addicts so often chase. But as we stated at the beginning of the review, this is no ordinary title. Being that it is one of the largest games that we have ever had to undertake for quite some time.
Another welcome return to gaming thanks to Lego Harry Potter sees the actual use of a gamers thought process and intelligence instead of just resorting to blind ‘button mashing’ or ‘hints and tips” popping up every time the gamer looks to be in any kind of danger of being presented with a task that requires anything more challenging than just running through levels and waving a wand at anything with a glowing halo. We don’t quite know when gaming began to lose its faith in the customer, and the developers felt that they neeeded to do everything possible in their powers to assist the player in getting to the end of the game in the shortest time possible, but we don’t like it. However, we are very pleased to be able to inform you that in Lego Harry Potter that this is most certainly not the case, and a return to the gaming era when the player had to figure out the puzzles and negotiate the traps and pitfalls using little else other than their wits, has thankfully made a very successful return thanks to the brains of the developers at Travellers Tales.
Fans of Harry Potter will be more than glad to see the inclusion of the character switch and also the split screen online and local co-operative play that was made so successful during the last outing in the Lego franchise. So grab a loved one or a friend to have some great co-op fun as this is one area of the game where Lego Harry Potter and his friends can solve more of the games more challenging gameplay and puzzles, Though we have to say that there has been a marked improvement in the level of understanding between the player and the Artificial Intelligence this time around, so much so that no longer will players be gnashing their teeth and pulling out their hair at the AI’s seemingly basic lack of understanding of the task at hand. In Lego Harry Potter we experienced no such problems during gameplay, and found instead that the AI had become far more intuitive to the needs of the player.
Stud collection and the creation of Lego objects and implements are once again the mainstay of the gameplay, with the regular return of making objects from the glowing parts that you find lying around all over the maps, as well as the usual hidden bonuses and extra studs from accomplishing small and simple tasks such as one at the very start of the game where you play as Hagrid in the games tutorial section and wave your wand using the Wingardium Leviosa spell at a seamingly innocuous tankard on the wizards bar table only for the tankard to set off a small sequence of musical events that result in a game of ‘Magical Musical Chairs’ with the standard eruption of studs as your reward. So pay attention gamers, and be on the look out, for even the most innocent looking object can produce the most startling of outcomes in this game of wonders.
Another thing to be on the lookout for is the random floating button symbol in the middle of the scene, as this more often than not produces what turns out to be a segment of one of the Hogwarts school crests. These are necessary for building your power ups and also count toward that all important 100% completion if you are that way inclined?
Potion making is as easy as finding an ingredient and depositing it in the nearest cauldron. Once sufficient and correct items have successfully been deposited into the witches cooking pot then the potion does what it was brewed to do, and it is then usually accompanied by a small cloud of coloured vapour that the relevant occurance takes place automatically.
The accuracy in the gameplay in regard to what you will already know from seeing the movies or reading the books is quite astonishing. Everything that you would want to see in a Lego Harry Potter title is here, right down to the owls who deliver the mail. However in this situation they can also assist Harry in a lot more things than just the receipt of his letters. But this can also be said of a great many other things in the game. Whereas in the books or the movies what you may expect to be just a bit-part player or a cameo, suddenly becomes a playable character each coming with their own abilities and functions.
‘Free Play’ and ‘True Award’s’ make their welcome return, in this case at the end of each level during the summing up you are awarded the ‘True Wizard’ rank for the 100% completion and stud collection during gameplay. There are also the additional ‘House Crest’ emblem awards as well as the ‘Student in Peril’ bonus to be accrued along the way. All in all very much similar to all the previous Lego titles but with just enough difference and variety to still make the changes noticable and justified.
The typical Lego sense of humour runs right throughout the title from the opening scenes to the very end credits, and we have to say that not once does the humour feel tired or forced. On the contrary, if anything you, like us, will find yourselves sniggering away, and openly laughing along on countless occasions thanks to some first rate scripting by the Travellers Tales writers, and some fine character acting by the designers.
So moving on through the game you inevitabley begin to get to the heart of the tale as the titles plot becomes more deeply entwined with the books storyline, Indeed, the longer the game progresses the more that you will see that the title is much more story orientated than you would first imagine, being that the first few levels and chapters so obviously deal with young Harry getting to grips with his magical talents and the education of the fledgling wizard in the arcane arts.
Speaking of the education of Harry brings us nicely to the lessons in wizardry that the young Master Potter has to attend in order to learn the skills and talents necessary with which to fulfill his tasks and ultimately his destiny. Classes range from potion making and spell casting where you will learn to better master the use of more important spells such as Wingardium Leviosa, as your Destructo type spell is a given that you get right from the word go, so that you may zap everything and anything to collect the rainfall of studs that cloudburst from every suit of armour and chandelier.
The genius of Travellers Tales and the Lego titles is in how they can take such a tried and tested formula and make it still feel so new and fresh. Combine the fact that although this title is a lot bigger than anything that has come before it for Lego games, and then mix that up with the knowledge that gone are the the hub’s from where you will set forth on your travels into the regular settings of familiar Lego-type levels and preset formats, isn’t it then remarkable that the sense of familiarity that you get from playing such a set formula as a Lego title, then allows you to slip into game shaping changes, as this one is, with such ease that it almost feels as if this is how Lego titles have always been presented. LHP just feels a lot more ‘fuller’ and ‘fleshed out’ as it were, as you explore the vast environment in a much more RPG kind of ‘open world’ format. The game just keeps on growing and growing as you explore more and more varied locations that are fed to you in continuous gameplay.
Whatever thoughts you have on whether or not to play this game should, hopefully by now, be fully dispelled from your uncertain mind, as we hope we have whetted your appetite just enough to make sure that you head off down to the gaming store to run home, with game clasped firmly in hand in sweaty anticipation at the prospect of playing this truly epic title. For those hardcore gamers out there who never venture further than their Resurgence Pack or Halo Waypoint, all we can say to you is that you are missing out on a whole world of gaming fun that is yours for the taking and there at your fingertips just waiting for you to explore. Not to take the opportunity to experience such an absolute gaming colossus as Lego Harry Potter is in itself a wasted chance to endure some of the best gameplay that is on offer from any title in any genre that is available to you this year.
And so we come to the point where we have to rate this game. Where to begin? Do we start at the cracking gameplay? Do we begin at the immense storyline that sees you exploring what has to be an environment so vast that there will be RPG’s out there who hang their head’s in rightful shame and despondency at the sheer awesome power of Lego Harry Potter? Well, we could but would that not just detract from the epic amount of content, the number of playable characters, the collectibles, the bonuses, the brilliance of the titles gameplay? Frankly? No, it would not. Lego Harry Potter is an absolute Tour de Force of a videogame, and one that is not to be missed, by any age gamer. It is with that single line that we arrive at the breakdown:
Graphics: Quite simply remarkable.For what are supposed to be two inch pieces of block plastic, you will forget that you are playing a Lego title and look on the characters as flesh and bone. 10
Gameplay: The best variety on the biggest scale played over the largest gaming area that we have had the absolute gaming pleasure to have enjoyed this whole year, to date. That goes for any title on any format. 10
RePlay Value: RePlay Value? REPLAY VALUE?? When you actually manage to get through this game unlocking every single bonus item, character, schoolboy in peril and then collecting every stud, crest, upgrade and finally getting your 100%? Give us a call and tell us how long it took you to finish it first time out! 10
Presentation: Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 has it all, as you have no doubt judged for yourself by now from our review? The game is exactly what gaming was meant to be! Every detail has been meticulously modified and made perfect, and then redone a little bigger and better. A true gem of a game that we can honestly not rate highly enough, if we could we would have given Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 a score of 11. 10